Graskop Gorge gets a lift for tourism

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - RAPULA MOATSHE

rapula.moatshe@inl.co.za YOUR adren­a­line is bound to pump up as you de­scend 51m down the face of the Graskop Gorge into the Afromon­tane for­est be­low.

This breath­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was ap­pre­ci­ated by a me­dia group who ex­pe­ri­enced the of­fi­cial launch of the Graskop Gorge Lift on the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga.

As vis­i­tors travel in the lift, they can gaze out at the wa­ter­fall cas­cad­ing on the op­po­site side where wooden walk­ways and sus­pen­sion bridges me­an­der along a 600m trail through the in­dige­nous for­est

The Panorama Route is a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion that at­tracts over 500 000 vis­i­tors a year. And the lift, which opened in De­cem­ber, has al­ready at­tracted 100 000 vis­i­tors, both lo­cal and for­eign­ers.

Dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing on Thurs­day, Min­is­ter of Tourism Derek Hanekom hosted a func­tion and said Graskop had the po­ten­tial to make tourism in the area flour­ish.

“The place is go­ing to give peo­ple a mem­o­rable stay,” he said.

He praised those with the vi­sion to de­velop the tourist fa­cil­ity, and said their hard work en­sured it be­came a re­al­ity.

The depart­ment re­cently made a grant of R5 mil­lion to be utilised dur­ing the sec­ond phase of the project.

Project di­rec­tor Oupa Pi­lane said: “This lift is the first in Africa. We are not com­pet­ing with any­one.”

Graskop’s prox­im­ity to the Kruger Na­tional Park, he said, pre­sented it with bet­ter chances to at­tract more tourists. “Through tourism only we can cre­ate jobs for ev­ery­one re­sid­ing in the area,” Pi­lane said.

Dur­ing its first phase of devel­op­ment, 155 tem­po­rary jobs and 40 per­ma­nent jobs were cre­ated.

The eco­nomic devel­op­ment agency of Thaba Ch­weu Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Project called Thaleda awarded to de­vel­op­ers eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties worth ap­prox­i­mately R150m.

The Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Fund (NEF) funded the first phase of the ini­tia­tive to the tune of R334m in 2016.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of the NEF Philisiwe Mthethwa said: “They had an idea that had ev­ery po­ten­tial to eas­ily be­come the most in­no­va­tive tourism devel­op­ment in South Africa af­ter lib­er­a­tion.”

She said the value of the project was R40m and was ex­pected to grow to R150m on com­ple­tion of the sec­ond phase when more sus­pen­sion bridges would be built.

De­vel­op­ers se­cured a 25-year con­tract with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity fol­low­ing a public pro­cure­ment pro­cesses to de­velop the in­fras­truc­ture with the aim of trans­form­ing Graskop into a ma­jor tourism node.

The precinct has a restau­rant on the cliff edge, a con­tem­po­rary African art gallery, colour­ful African fash­ion cloth­ing, cu­rio shop and com­mu­nity craft mar­ket. Go to https://youtu.be/TCqIKVDXvdQ

The Graskop Gorge lift was of­fi­cially opened by Tourism Min­is­ter Derek Hanekom this week.

Min­is­ter of Tourism Derek Hanekom and Graskop Gorge Project di­rec­tor Oupa Pi­lane.

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